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Infectious Disease

WHO advises no flight restrictions, low risk from Ebola

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International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Tony Tyler REUTERS/Jason Lee

The World Health Organization is not recommending travel restrictions or border closures due to the Ebola outbreak and there would be a low risk to other passengers if an infected person flew, the airlines association IATA said on Thursday.

The International Air Transport Association issued the statement after consultation with the WHO and the U.N. aviation agency ICAO, following the case of a man who died of Ebola after taking a flight from Liberia to Nigeria with a stopover at Lomé.

"In the rare event that a person infected with the Ebola virus was unknowingly transported by air, WHO advises that the risks to other passengers are low," IATA said in a statement.

It said Ebola is only transmitted when patients are displaying severe symptoms. Ebola starts with fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, then vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function and finally internal and external bleeding.

"It is highly unlikely that someone suffering such symptoms would feel well enough to travel," IATA said.

An earlier statement from ICAO said the WHO was still considering reviewing its recommendations on passenger screening and was seeking input from the World Tourism Organization and Airports Council International.

A WHO official said there was a chance it could change its advice on passenger screening, saying: "We will update our travel advice in the next few days. It could be no revision, it could be a slight modification, it could be a revision, we just have to see."

The West Africa outbreak, which began in Guinea in February, has spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. With more than 1,200 cases and 672 deaths, it is the largest since the Ebola virus was discovered almost 40 years ago.